Actor Huang Bo's directorial debut The Island is an overstuffed morality tale

The Island is a morality play, a half-hearted romance and a mildly amusing comedy.
The Island is a morality play, a half-hearted romance and a mildly amusing comedy. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

REVIEW / DRAMA COMEDY

THE ISLAND (PG13)

131 minutes

Opens Aug 23

3 stars


The story: A team-building exercise at sea goes horribly wrong and the employees find themselves marooned on an island. One theory is that the world has been destroyed due to a meteorite collision and the group sets about the task of survival. Lowly worker Ma Jin (Huang Bo) - who has a crush on his colleague Shanshan (Shu Qi) - hangs on to the hope of escape because he has just won the lottery of 60 million yuan, a prize which has to be claimed within 90 days.

Huang is one of China's top actors. He is known for comedies such as Crazy Stone (2006) and Lost In Thailand (2012), and has also shown his chops as a dramatic actor in the kidnap thriller Dearest (2014), for which he was nominated for several Best Actor accolades.

The Island marks his debut as director. He also stars in it and has co-writing credit, but he might have taken on too much.

The movie is a morality play, a half-hearted romance and a mildly amusing comedy. The last is somewhat surprising given his forte in the genre and that he works here with former comedy collaborators Wang Baoqiang (Lost In Thailand) and Shu (Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, 2013).

It is the morality tale aspect that is actually strongest here.

What happens to civilisation and old power structures when a group of people get stranded on an island? Driver and guide Wang (Wang) is soon selected as leader as he seems to know how to look for food while the company boss Zhang (Yu Hewei) is initially sidelined for his lack of physical prowess.

There are more upheavals to come. Ma Jin and his brother Xiao Xing (South Korean-Chinese boyband Exo member Lay Zhang buried beneath a mop of curls and oversized glasses) eventually end up on top and find their ethics being tested.

Along the way, Huang throws in some references to Lost (2004 to 2010), the hit American television series about a group of plane crash survivors on an island - a polar bear appears and there are unexplained noises.

Too bad the actor-director chooses to overstuff the film instead of delivering a cautionary mystery thriller.